Slow and steady :: On learning at your own pace

Slow and steady
Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling.

You know those high achieving homeschoolers who read by age three and recite the times tables backwards and forwards by 3rd grade? The ones with the perfect penmanship, excellent spelling, and an uncanny ability to build complex mechanical structures out of LEGO and K’nex without an instruction manual?

Most of us know someone with at least one or two of these characteristics, the super homeschoolers that are our community’s pride and joy and the ones who also privately put us to shame, especially during those moments of doubt when we compare them to our own, and wonder, are we doing something wrong?

My daughter was a perfectionist, easily frustrated by the slightest setback. At an early age, she showed proficiency in writing and drawing, filling our walls with copywork and colorful, detailed pictures.

By first grade, she could complete a perfect cartwheel, but could barely read with any fluency or know the place value of any given number.

What she was good at she repeated often and well. She loved stories and we read to her every single day. Whenever she wanted to write a word, we spelled it out for her, a letter at a time. Fascinated with science, we read her Ranger Rick magazines from cover to cover and watched Bill Nye often.

Occasionally, I’d ask her to add or subtract a few numbers and work through online reading programs, but never felt she completely understood the concepts.

Truth be told, I had more than my share of insecure moments when I worried about her academic level in comparison to other kids her age.

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4 back to school resolutions to keep in mind this year

Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling. She really did buy 24 tubes of glue sticks.

Love146 Round Home Library

For many of us, it is Back to School season, and with it, all the hopes, relief, and excitement of a fresh start. In a way, it is like the beginning of any cycle, be it the New Year, new house, or new job. You get a chance to do over and somehow get it right this time.

I was at the back-to-school section of a store the other day and overheard a mom exclaim, “I love new school supplies!” She was selecting designer notebooks, fashion folders, and neon paper with her daughter, who kept asking which items and designs she ought to pick.

There was a time when I had shun back-to-school sales. Who needed another dozen brand new #2 pencils? What was wrong with the clothes already in the closet? Was there really a need to plop down $200 for a new “school” wardrobe? But, there in that store, listening to the mom and daughter gush over their shopping, I admit, I too, felt some of their excitement.

There is nothing like a crisp, blank notebook — with its potential to be filled with new ideas and learning — to give you a sense of all that is to come. I watched the groups of parents and children browsing the aisle, each with a shopping list, no doubt sent to them by the teachers. “We need six pencils,” announced one Dad to his son. Those teachers are pros. They know exactly what is needed to be ready to go.

Homeschoolers are a different story. I hear lots of resolutions about how this year, it’s going to be different:

  • This year, we will take more field trips.
  • This year, we will learn hands-on.
  • This year, learning will be fun.

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On waiting for reading readiness

reading

Contributor Amida writes for Journey into Unschooling. She didn’t read fluently until she was seven but ended up with a degree in English.

One of the first goals I had in homeschooling was to teach my child to read. As a first-time homeschooler (and  mom), I was excited, ambitious, and determined. Before my son turned one, I had amassed an impressive collection of classic and bestseller children’s books.

I read Horton Hatches the Egg in the middle of the night while breastfeeding. I sang Mother Goose rhymes throughout the day and read Green Eggs and Ham and The Little Engine That Could every single night. I made a flannel board and decorated it with a colorful felt alphabet and coconut tree ala Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

My refrigerator was covered with magnetic letters and, at one point, I even had flashcards taped on all the furniture. It was, I admit, over the top and looking back, borderline obsessive. But my son did learn to read at three and by the time he hit kindergarten, he was already way beyond grade level.

By my second child, I had calmed down considerably. I did continue to read to him and introduced the same phonics lessons, but I was definitely not as compulsive as before. And I waited until he was five to start. Still, after some intense practice, he “caught up” one magical summer and was reading at grade level by the time he started school again in the fall.

Then my third child, a girl, came along.

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Learning through community service

flowerWritten by contributor Amida of Journey Into Unschooling

About five years ago, I signed my family up for a community service event. It was one of those random, spur of the moment deals. I saw a posting somewhere to participate on some restoration work at a local park and decided to give it a shot. With a two-year-old on my back and seven- and ten-year-old in tow, we set off.

I am a total introvert and don’t exactly shine in the meet-and-greet department, so I was cautious and nervous, to say the least. Worse, they started off by making a big circle and doing “fun” introductions — you know, give your name and dance move, that kind of thing.

Luckily, I survived and we spent an awesome day learning about the native plants and visiting a tide pool afterwards. And as it often happens in our close knit homeschool community, someone knew me through a mutual friend, and we got to meet and became great friends. Small world, right?

It is in this small world, though, that I have discovered a whole new lifestyle.

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10 homeschooling stereotypes (& their rebuttals)

classroomWritten by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling

So you’re thinking about homeschooling. Here are a few basic items you need to get started:

  • A designated school room, where you gather to teach the kids their lessons every day.
  • A schedule, obviously, so you know which topics to cover every day.
  • A curriculum, so you know what to teach them every day.
  • A degree, preferably in education, so you are qualified to teach them every day.

Got everything? Good. Let’s get started…

This seems to be the general idea of what goes on in our house daily. I probably thought the same when I first researched homeschooling, and while it may hold true for some, this type of environment and structure doesn’t work for us.

Since I get asked a lot about our personal experience, mostly on the hows and whys, I thought I’d share some of the most common homeschooling stereotypes I’ve come across along with my rebuttals.
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